PC partnership gets grant, eyes pilot program for student support

Peninsula College, in partnership with West Sound STEM Network, United Way of Clallam County and several other community service organizations, announced last week that their partnership was awarded a Regional Challenge Grant from The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC).

The grant will fund a pilot program allowing the college and its partners to bring together community-based organizations in a specific way to simplify a person’s ability to access support services while entering college.

In the program, students will receive assistance for housing, childcare, transportation, financial aid, college enrollment, and advising all at one location at the same time and location each week. The partnership has named its collective work the Olympic Peninsula Resource CO-OP (COnnections and OPportunities).

Starting this summer, residents in Clallam and Jefferson counties can attend the Resource CO-OP one day a week at the DSHS office in Port Angeles. The Resource CO-OP will first work out of the DSHS Port Angeles campus and then extend to locations in Forks and Port Townsend.

“We know there are real barriers to residents in our community seeking higher education,” Peninsula College president Suzy Ames said. “We can invite people to enter Peninsula College but know it won’t happen until we address some very basic needs. My desire for this program is to give people the tools and hope they need to help achieve their education goals.”

The college will hire a program specialist and an advisor at each satellite campus (Forks, Port Townsend) to enroll adult learners and former foster care youth into high-demand programs while offering multiple resources to help them succeed.

Other community service organizations participating in the grant include: Serenity House of Clallam County; Olympic Peninsula YMCA; Olympic Angels; Department of Social and Health Services, and Olympic Community of Health.

Washington state officials have a statewide goal for 70% of adults to earn a post-secondary credential; currently, about 60% of Washingtonians hold a post-secondary credential. However, just 42% of Clallam County and 52% of Jefferson County residents currently have an associate degree or higher.

In addition to a focus on adult learners, the partnership also focuses on youth aging out of foster care. Only half of foster care youth reach high school graduation, only 3% earn a college degree, and 60% fall below the poverty line as adults.

Olympic Angels is a key partner whose volunteers will attend the Resource CO-OPs with foster youth interested in college to help navigate resources needed to enroll and successfully complete college.

The Washington Student Achievement Council awarded the grant for two years.

For more information, contact Aimee Gordon at agordon@pencol.edu.